Initiative to improve UC Berkeley faculty diversity, equity implemented

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The 2018 Initiative to Advance Faculty Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Life Sciences was implemented to facilitate faculty diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, within participating UC Berkeley departments.

The four focus areas of the 2018 initiative included creating a Life Sciences Initiative, or LSI, Committee to evaluate candidates, increasing applicant diversity, improving the candidate evaluation process and implementing institutional change, according to the 2018-19 Year End Summary Report.

When evaluating candidates, the LSI Committee placed a large emphasis on candidates’ “past contributions and future plans to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion” by requiring a DEI statement, according to the report. The Rubric to Assess Candidate Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion includes knowledge of DEI, track record in DEI and plans for advancing DEI.

“There is no single best DEI statement and a DEI statement is not a litmus test,” said Angelica Stacy, associate vice provost for the faculty and a campus professor of chemistry, in an email. “They are considered in concert with teaching statements that offer the opportunity to provide evidence of the ability to communicate subject mastery to a heterogeneous student population, as well as research statements that provide applicants the opportunity to provide evidence of creativity, rigor, and potential for wide-ranging impact.”

Candidates’ commitment has been assessed for several years, according to Stacy.

The LSI served to the increased number of faculty and administrators working together to share “best practices for identifying and hiring faculty” and the number of faculty members hired, she said.

A few faculty members have raised concerns regarding “the role the DEI activities were given in the selection of the ‘viable’ applicant,” according Ronald Amundson, a campus professor in the department of environmental science, policy and management.

Research, teaching, professional competence and service are the outlined hiring criteria in the UC-wide employment policies and procedures manual, the Academic Personnel Manual, Amundson said in an email. Amundson added that the new hiring process “appears” inconsistent with the manual.

“These contributions to diversity and equal opportunity can take a variety of forms including efforts to advance equitable access to education, public service that addresses the needs of California’s diverse population, or research in a scholar’s area of expertise that highlights inequalities,” Amundson said in an email.

According to Stacy, research and work expertise expectations were not lowered, and the LSI efforts and resulting hires enjoyed widespread support.

The LSI has shifted its focus to providing support to all the new campus hires across the six departments, Stacy added.

“The initiative can be improved by addressing other aspects of inclusion, such as the minority women issue,” said Zinmay Renee Sung, campus plant and microbial biology professor, in an email. “The goal is not just to equalize the numbers of diverse groups, rather to make transparent the difficulty of minority women face on campus.”

Contact Skylar Schoemig at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sschoemig_dc.